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may-june 2008 | celebrate!

ost liturgiCal musiCians
would affirm, no doubt, the
claim made in Sacrosanctum
Concilium, the Constitution on
the liturgy, that sacred music will be the more
holy the more closely it is joined to the liturgical
rite, whether by [expressing prayer more pleas-
antly], fostering oneness of spirit, or investing
the rites with greater solemnity.
in the minds
of many, a piece of music is liturgically suc-
cessful if it renders prayer pleasantly, nurtures
unity, and contributes to solemnity. to focus
exclusively on these traits, however, is to misun-
derstand the Constitutions claim, for it makes
the measures of the success of liturgical music
as goals in and of themselves. it is possible to
imagine situations in which prayer is expressed
pleasantly, oneness of spirit is fostered, or the
rites are invested with greater solemnity, but
where the music has little connection to the rite.
its not so much that liturgical music expresses
prayer more pleasantly, fosters oneness of spirit,
or invests the rites with greater solemnity that is
vital, but that liturgical music is joined closely to
the rite. when this is the case, the attributes of
liturgical music i have just mentioned will not
only become evident, but will be intensifed.
Tis discussion points towards the distinc-
tion between singing at the liturgy and sing-
ing the liturgy. Te two statements indicate the
relationship between the liturgy and liturgical
music. Te former emphasizes their distinction,
emphasizing a role of liturgical music that is pri-
marily functional; the latter highlights the con-
nection of liturgy and liturgical music, embracing
the properly liturgical disposition of liturgical
music. we fnd the distinction between these
two approaches within the history of the liturgy
itself. Consider, for example, the description of
the singing of the Gloria during high mass in a
handbook for celebrating the mass from 1958:
at the altar the celebrant intones Gloria in ex-
celsis Deo, and then continues with the ministers
in the subdued voice.
liturgically speaking, it
was the priests recitation of the gloria that was
signifcant, not the choral singing of the text. to
underscore this very point, at a low mass the
gloria was to be recited inaudibly by the priest.
not all of the low mass was silent, however.
Te 1947 encyclical of Pius Xii, Musicae sacrae
disiplina, gave ofcial universal sanction to the
practice of the congregation singing hymns in
the vernacular language, a practice that has been
noted as occurring as early as 1148 in austria.

as Jan michael Joncas notes, this provision gave
ofcial recognition to the entrance hymn, of-
fertory hymn, communion hymn, exit hymn
pattern [but] it is clear, however, that Musicae
sacrae disiplina does not consider such vernac-
ular singing as genuinely liturgical music, but as
popular devotional singing coordinated with the
liturgical action.
Tis singing was benefcial
because it could be a powerful aid in keeping
the faithful from attending the holy sacrifce
like dumb and idle spectators. Tey can help to
make the faithful accompany the sacred services
both mentally and vocally and to join their own
piety to the prayers of the priest.
because this
music was not properly liturgical, its connec-
tion to the rite itself was limited. indeed, Pius
Xii specifcally noted that the law by which it
is forbidden to sing the liturgical words them-
selves in the language of the people remains in
Te clear consequence was the growth
of an understanding of vernacular music sung
during the mass that underscored its distinction
from the texts of the liturgy.
it should be no small wonder, then, that
the perception of music sung at the celebra-
tion of the eucharist in a post-conciliar world
has largely remained consistent with prior
teaching, since the practice has changed little.
when liturgical music is used in a manner that
was originally intended to make distinctions
between the liturgy and liturgical music, it is
nearly impossible to move beyond the original
intention and emphasize an intimate relation-
ship between the two.
what is, then, this new relationship? Te
liturgy is, frst and foremost, the work of god
expressed in human termsan action of Christ
the Priest and of his body, which is the Church.

it is humanitys response to gods ofer of salva-
tion: the movement of human beings towards
god in order to ofer him their prayer of adora-
tion and thanksgiving, and the movement of
god to human beings, who look to him for the
answer to their prayers.
furthermore, litur-
gical music provides a truly sacramental way
of celebrating the liturgy. anthony ruf, osb,
outlines six functions of liturgy and liturgical
music: glorifying god and sanctifying the faith-
ful; fostering festivity in liturgical celebration;
Musicians corner
singing the liturgy
an introduction
By David Pitt




enhancing proclamation of the word; strength-
ening bonds of community; promoting partici-
pation; and fostering cultural and artistic goods.
all of these functions can be understood as di-
mensions of worship which would come to fuller
expression through the employment of music
than would be the case were music lacking. Tat
is to say, liturgical music serves to highlight and
enhance the dimensions of glorifcation and
sanctifcation, festivity, proclamation, com-
munity, active participation, and artistic beauty
that are intrinsic to Christian liturgy.
over the course of the next three articles in
this series, i will examine the eucharistic liturgy
to see how the liturgy might be sung, rather than
simply accompanied by music. beginning with
the introductory and Concluding rites, then
proceeding to liturgy of the word, and fnally
to the liturgy of the eucharist, this series will
suggest methods for understanding the liturgi-
cal celebration and liturgical music as an inte-
grated whole.
1 Sacrosanctum Concilium 112. english translation
in international commission of english in the liturgy,
Documents on the Liturgy 1963-1979: Conciliar, Papal,
and Curial Texts (collegeville: the liturgical Press,
1982). see also jan michael joncas, From Sacred Song
to Ritual Music: Twentieth-Century Understandings
of Roman Catholic Worship Music (collegeville: the
liturgical Press, 1997), 39, where he argues that the
latin phrase orationem suavius exprimens, rendered
adding delight to prayer in many translations of
Sacrosanctum Concilium, is more literally translated
expressing prayer more pleasantly.
2 adrian fortescue and j.b. oconnell, The Cer-
emonies of the Roman Rite Described, tenth edition
(Westminster, md: the newman Press, 1958), 127.
3 in his article How theyve done it in austria: a mil-
lennium of congregational song, anthony ruff, osb
notes the writing of Gerhoh of reichersburg: all the
earth exalts in praise of christ with vernacular songs,
but especially the Germanic people, whose language
is especially suited for communal singing. Pastoral
Music (february-march 1997), 11.
4 joncas, 16. see Musicae sacrae disciplina 47, 62, and
64. english translation located in robert f. Hayburn,
Papal Legislation on Sacred Music: 95 AD to 1977 AD
(collegeville: the liturgical Press, 1979), 345-356.
5 Musicae sacrae disiplina 64.
6 Musicae sacrae disciplina 47.
7 Sacrosanctum Concilium 7.
8 irne Henri dalmais, theology of the liturgical
celebration in irne Henri dalmais, et al., Principles
of the Liturgy, The Church at Prayer, Volume 1, new
edition trans., matthew j. oconnell (collegeville: the
liturgical Press, 1987), 230.
9 anthony ruff, osb, Sacred Music and Liturgical
Reform: Treasures and Transformations (chicago: Hil-
lenbrand books, 2007), 18.
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30 celebrate! | may-june 2008